Employee Spotlight: Cristo Rey Mentors
On this month’s employee spotlight, we’re sharing the stories of not one, but two Urjanet team members who volunteer as mentors at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School. Kevin Gomes, director of partner and OEM sales, and Tim Porter, global director of partner and OEM sales, each have spent the past four years mentoring a student of limited financial means on his path to college and beyond.
Cristo Rey offers a top-quality, college-preparatory education exclusively to students who otherwise could not afford one. Though founded on Jesuit ideals, the school is open to students of all faiths and denominations. Each student’s education is partially funded by the corporate work study program, wherein the student attends school four days a week and works in an office the remaining day.
“It gives them a vision of what’s possible for them, and that’s why they succeed.”
With the combination of a rigorous education and real-world job experience, Cristo Rey students graduate to attend college at staggering rates. As of today, 90 percent of Cristo Rey graduates nationwide enroll in college, compared to 61 percent of low-income high school graduates and 86 percent of high-income high school graduates.
Kevin and Carlos
Kevin first heard of Cristo Rey through an online search. He was looking for a formal mentorship program and called around to a few different high schools before he chose Cristo Rey. Though Kevin is not Catholic, he is Christian and believes in many of the same ideals. He thought the program would be a good way to share not only his knowledge, but also his faith.
Carlos, Kevin’s mentee, is a first-generation American. His parents immigrated to Atlanta from Mexico City. The oldest of three siblings, Carlos aspires to become a priest after college. Beyond advice about college and life after high school, the two talk about everything from healthy diets and exercise to girls and school dances. Recently, Kevin’s been focused on helping Carlos develop a financial plan to pay for college and minimize student debt.
“I know from experience: First-gen parents aren’t always aware of the nuances of growing up in America. Making that transition easier for others is a passion of mine.”
Above all, simply having someone to talk to is the biggest boon to Carlos. Sometimes having someone who isn’t a parent, teacher, or employer around to lean on is all he needs. “I know from experience: First-gen parents aren’t always aware of the nuances of growing up in America. Making that transition easier for others is a passion of mine,” said Kevin.
What drives Kevin to volunteer his time with Cristo Rey is that he would’ve loved to have a similar mentor when he was growing up. Kevin is also a first-gen American, his parents originally from Guyana in South America. When he was Carlos’ age, no one had been around to prepare him for the nuances of school, college recruitment, and student debt. And he doesn’t plan to let that relationship end when Carlos graduates. “No matter where he goes, I’ll always be in touch with him.”
Tim and Jacques
Tim, on the other hand, heard of the program through his friend Camille Naughton, who runs advancement and corporate partnerships for the school. His mentee, Jacques, is part of the first class to graduate from the newly founded Atlanta location. Jacques comes from a single-parent family, raised by his mom. Because of where his family is currently staying, he has to get up at 4:15 every morning to catch a bus and then a train to school. But for him, it’s worth it. Jacques has already been accepted to several universities, the most likely choice being Georgia State. He wants to be a lawyer or a sportscaster.
“It’s been great seeing him grow over the last four years, starting without any clear idea of what he should be planning for after high school. He used to just know he liked sports, but now he’s realizing he could be anything,” said Tim. Now, at Jacques’ work study job, he sits on the executive floor of Coca-Cola. He wears a jacket and tie and attends meetings in this very corporate setting. Exposure to this kind of environment “gives them a vision of what’s possible for them, and that’s why they succeed.”
To hear Tim talk about it, it sounds like he gets much more out of being Jacques’s mentor than Jacques does, by a mile. Mentors put in a relatively low commitment, emailing frequently, visiting mentees at their school or their work offices, volunteering with them in various Cristo Rey service projects, and even attending Hawks games. “It’s one of those things where you know you’ll be sacrificing some of your time when you start out, but only after doing it do you realize how much more you’re getting back than what you put in.”
As for Tim, his experience as a mentor has opened his eyes to how much of a struggle it is for so many in his city. His own sons are nearly the same age as Jacques; the defining difference between them is the circumstances in which they’ve been raised. Tim noted how intelligent and driven students at Cristo Rey are, and in many cases even more so than their counterparts who grow up in stable family environments, because they have to work so much harder. “They may be under-privileged, but they’re not under-talented or underachieving.”
Cristo Rey is always on the lookout for new volunteers, mentors, and tutors. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit their website. There, you’ll also find information on how your company can become a job partner for Cristo Rey’s work study program. If you have questions about the program, feel free to contact Tim Porter at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kevin Gomes at email@example.com.
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About Amy Hou
Amy Hou is a Marketing Manager at Urjanet, overseeing content and communications. She enjoys writing about the latest industry updates in sustainability, energy efficiency, and data innovation.